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HIFICRITIC
AUDIO REVIEW JOURNAL
£12.50 Vol5/No3 JULY - SEPTEMBER 2011
REVIEWED THIS ISSUE:
FRANCO SERBLIN KTEMA
HITACHI TRAVELSTAR 7K500
SEAGATE MOMENTUS 7200.4
KINGSTON SSDNow
CORSAIR F120
SYNOLOGY DS411SLIM
QNAP TS-439 PRO
QNAP TS-419P+
TOWNSHEND GLASTONBURY PRE-1
MUSIC FIRST AUDIO REFERENCE
ROBERT KODA TAKUMI K-70
RAAL 7020XR
EXPOSURE MCX
EMINENT LFT-8b
ABBINGDON MUSIC RESEARCH CD-77
NEAT ULTIMATUM XLS
ROKSAN TMS 3
SYNERGISTIC MIG
ARCAM rCUBE
VITA AUDIO R4i
LISTENING TO STORAGE
Comparing different hard and solid state drives
ULTIMATE PASSIVITY
Top class sound quality from transformer-based
control units
TRADING PLACES
Patterns, trends and dubious practices
in hi-fi marketing
ULTIMATE EXPOSURE
Exposure’s high end MCX system scrutinised
THE RHYTHM KING PART 2
The conclusion of our radical BMR-based DIY speaker
ABBINGDON’S BEST SHOT
Trying out AMR’s CD-77 CD player/DAC
MUSIC & MUCH MORE
HIFICRITIC JULY | AUG | SEPT 2011
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9/9/11 11:23:00
HIFICRITIC
Vol5 | No3
July | Aug | Sept 2011
TRK DEMONSTRATIONS
HIFICRITIC will be going to the Whittlebury National Audio Show at the end of
this month (public days 24th, 25th Sept). In Syndicate Room 15 we’ll be holding
demonstrations and lectures about the design of our new The Rhythm King DIY
loudspeaker, which features the unorthodox BMR planar full range drive unit. The
designers and representatives from Wilmslow Audio and DNM will be on hand to
answer queries. We’ll also have our usual stand in the Brooklands suite, where current
and most back issues will be on sale, and we’ll be happy to try and answer hi-fi queries.
Editor | Paul Messenger
Writers
Colin Anderson
Chris Binns
Chris Bryant
Martin Colloms
Peter Comeau
Stan Curtis
Paul Darwin
Nigel Finn
Andrew Harrison
Jason Kennedy
Paul Messenger
Publisher | Martin Colloms
Design | Philippa Steward
Published by
HIFICRITIC Ltd
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© HIFICRITIC Ltd 2011. All rights reserved.
Any unauthorised editing, copying, reselling
or distribution of the whole or part of
this publication is prohibited. The views
expressed in any articles in this magazine
should be taken as those of the author or
the person quoted unless indicated to the
contrary. While HIFICRITIC endeavours to
ensure the accuracy of the information
contained in this publication, its accuracy
cannot be guaranteed and HIFICRITIC.COM
accepts no liability for any use of, reliance
on or the accuracy of such information.
2
HFC_issue23 10.indd 2
UNITIQUTE STREAMING
Secondly, Naim was very unhappy with JK’s statement, during his review of the Cyrus
Streamline in our last issue (Vol5 No2) that: “the UnitiQute cannot stream more than
48kHz”. It turns out that JK was wrong, and he confirms that the UnitiQute can indeed
stream 24-bit/96kHz files, so I’m happy to apologise on his behalf, and glad we’ve had
the opportunity to put the record straight.
In JK’s defence, I suspect that the root of his mistake lay in the miasma of confusion
that surrounds the various and sometimes incompatible formats that have turned
computer audio into a Tower of Babel. I ranted on about this at some length in my
last Editorial, so don’t intend to repeat myself here. It is, however, the reason I’m not
plunging headfirst into computer audio myself right now. I’ll continue to use it as an
adequate convenience format, filling a rather similar role to that occupied by my cassette
deck in the 1970s, but my prime source will remain vinyl, treasured as much for its
refreshing immutability as continually improving sound quality.
While I’ll happily bide my time and hope that the technology will settle down
and sort itself out, those with a more positive attitude to computer audio consider
it’s already capable of delivering better-than-CD sound quality. Furthermore they
add that its exceptional convenience means that more time is now spent listening to
music, and less to watching TV.
RECOMMENDATION
Martin thought I should maybe apologise that so many of the components he (and
others) have reviewed in this edition have been formally Recommended, a situation
which is arguably at odds with both our title and our intention to provide serious
criticism of today’s hi-fi equipment.
I think it’s largely coincidental that such a high proportion of this edition’s
components have turned out to be unusually good. But this still raises some issues about
the whole business of ‘Recommendation’. To be frank, and despite my long association
with Hi-Fi Choice, I’ve never liked the idea of putting flags on some products and not
others. To my mind it’s a procedure that’s altogether too ‘digital’ – products are either
black or white, allowing no shades of grey in between.
And attempting to delineate the shades of grey is what most of my reviewing is
about. Take the Vita Audio R4i that I write about elsewhere in this issue. It’s not perfect,
for sure, but it is cheap and comprehensively equipped. Does it warrant a flag? In truth,
it all comes down to priorities.
Paul Messenger
Editor
HIFICRITIC JULY | AUG | SEPT 2011
9/9/11 11:23:46
Contents
4
STAN’S SAFARI No15
30
Stan explores the relationship between drive
unit area and the quality of bass reproduction
7
LETTER FROM SHENZHEN
32
Peter Comeau, based in China, describes how
the Far East has become the engine of hi-fi
growth
9
SERBLIN’S STATEMENT
Franco Serblin headed Sonus Faber for many
years. Now independent, he’s introduced a
speaker under his own name
12
LISTENING TO STORAGE
Computer audio can be as fickle as analogue,
as Andrew Harrison discovers when
comparing different hard and solid state
drives
CROSSOVER RESISTOR SOUND
Even this relatively passive component can
affect the sound of a loudspeaker
ULTIMATE EXPOSURE
All too easily overlooked, Exposure’s ‘high
end’ MCX system well deserves close
attention
37
EMINENT LFT-8b
Jason Kennedy tries out an interesting hybrid
panel speaker from the USA
39
THE RHYTHM KING PART 2
The second and concluding part of our
feature on a radical BMR-based DIY speaker
project
43
Serblin’s Statement on page 9
ABBINGDON’S BEST SHOT
Stan Curtis tries out AMR’s top CD-77 CD
player, which doubles as a top class DAC
46
TOURAJ’S TOP TURNTABLE
Under continuous development for nearly
twenty years, Roksan’s signature TMS 3
remains very much ‘work in progress’
48
Townshend Glastonbury Pre -1, page 20
15
PRE-EVOLUTION
Pre-amp design is constantly evolving, but
PM still searches in vain for the ultimate
combination of features and sound quality.
17
ULTIMATE PASSIVITY
Transformer technology can set the best
sound quality agenda for high end system
control
22
TRADING PLACES
The patterns, trends and dubious practices
that affect the way hi-fi is marketed and sold
25
ROBERT KODA’S TAKUMI K-70
The unusual 3-box configuration helps create
an outstanding stereo power amplifier
28
THE RAAL DEAL
Chris Binns isn’t the only audiophile who
considers this Serbian ribbon one of the very
best HF units around
HIFICRITIC JULY | AUG | SEPT 2011
HFC_issue23 10.indd 3
VERY NEAT INDEED
A five-driver stand-mount is a rarity, but
Neat’s Ultimatum XLS nonetheless makes
plenty of sense
50
BITS & PIECES
Short reports on interesting items from
Arcam, Vita Audio and Synergistic Research
53
EMITT WHO?
Paul Darwin looks at the musical career
of the man who was dubbed ‘the one man
Beatles’
55
THE BEST OF CLASSICAL
Colin Anderson picks some more recent
classical music releases
58
ROCK, POP & OTHER NICE MUSIC
Nigel Finn selects half a dozen new rock/pop
releases
60
SUBJECTIVE SOUNDS
Introducing the Rubikon, an LP12 upgrade
that’s half the price of a Keel. And KEF’s
Blade is now a commercial reality.
Eminent LFT-8b, page 37
3
9/9/11 11:24:53
Ultimate Exposure
EXPOSURE ELECTRONICS IS ONE OF HI-FI’S SMALLER PLAYERS, BUT ITS ‘HIGH END’ MCX
SYSTEM IS AN IMPRESSIVE FLAGSHIP, AS CHRIS BRYANT DISCOVERS
E
xposure Electronics was founded in 1974 by
John Farlow, who successfully steered its eclectic
range of unique products until the company was
bought by Malaysian investors about 10 years ago. The
subsequent injection of capital has led to a plethora of
new products, including these costly top-of-the-line
MCX-series high end components, marketed as ‘real
hi-fi at real world prices’.
The system consists of a top loading CD player
(£4,370), a pre-amplifier (£4,370) with optional vinyl
cartridge stage (moving-coil or moving magnet, £330),
two massive monoblock power amplifiers (£9,400/pair),
and an extravagant infrared system remote control
handset (£235). While each may be used as separate
components, the rather individual styling and design
are aimed towards a unified system. Each is designed to
form part of a stack, with the power amplifiers at the
bottom and the CD player at the top. As well as being a
stackable, complete system control can be implemented
through a Cat 5 (RJ45 EXLINK) wire link system, and
the widely used 12V trigger 3.5mm jack based system
power-up is also provided.
While possibly not the biggest I’ve seen, the remote
handset is probably the thickest, 35mm making onehand operation a pain for anyone with small hands. All
aluminium, it’s made in two black extruded halves with
styled end caps, and is fairly heavy. The 31 round, silver
coloured buttons give tactile feedback and cover all the
functions required for CD and pre-amplifier operation
while standby also places everything into sleep mode
including the power amps.
Unusually, this system is designed with an integrated
stand. All the MCX components are made with PacMan profiled vertical aluminium pillars at each corner,
to which the side panels are attached. Heavy machined
alloy caps have an indent in the top and a matching foot
in the base of each pillar, making the components easy
to stack with the pillars carrying the load. The smaller
components’ pillars are hollow extruded aluminium,
and are fitted with rubber feet. The heavy power amps
use solid aluminium bars, with hard plastic feet for
the upper one, and floor-coupling cones with rounded
points for the one at the bottom of the stack.
The enclosures are all made from brushed,
machined, anodised panels bolted together using
internal strengthening plates. The two 40kg monoblock
power amps are located at the bottom of the stack, and
the corner pillars of the lower one have rounded cones
that interface with the floor. The total structure weighs
close to 100kg, and the weight is biased towards the left
side (viewed from the front). Placed on my carpeted
concrete floor, after a few days I noticed a discernible
list to the left. While the base amplifier remained
perfectly stable, the next one up wasn’t, and this is
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HFC_issue23 10.indd 32
always a problem with a four-point mounting system:
unless everything is absolutely square then one foot isn’t
going to settle, so that unit and consequently all above
it will not be wholly secure. To ensure a solid structure,
some form of adjustment needs to be included and, at
the moment, there isn’t any, so the only alternative is
to carefully shim one foot of each section, a variation
which will undoubtedly affect performance.
On the positive side, this concept does create a very
neat stack which, considering the size of the individual
elements, takes up a relatively small space in the room
– the ultimate Exposure stacking system. The fit and
finish of all the units is very good, giving an overall
effect that is arguably more 1980’s science fiction retro
than cutting edge modern. Each component was first
assessed separately in my reference system before being
assembled into the Exposure stack.
MCX CD Player
I was particular interested in this CD player because
it’s one of the few multi-bit DAC players still available.
Most manufacturers have moved on to the cheaper lowbit oversampling alternatives that measure amazingly
well. With that first introduction of low-bit technology,
many designers preferred the sweeter Philips Bitstream
example to earlier multi-bit implementations which
were often more dynamic but for some also harder and
more edgy sounding.
However, with careful implementation, multi-bit
technology has shown it can equal or better low-bit
even for sweetness, albeit at a higher price. Through
successive generations of development, by many
different manufacturers using variations on the low-bit
theme, DACs have been created which have just about
perfect specifications, but just don’t sound as interesting
as the earlier technology, despite its measurable
deficiencies. I believe that the designer must still
concentrate on sound quality through careful listening,
as measurement perfection, at least as judged by the
measurements currently used, do not fully define how a
player will sound.
The design of this CD player offers a very
comprehensive set of inputs and outputs, which allows
connection with a variety of components. Apart from
working as a standard 16-bit CD player, it’s compatible
with material encoded up to a maximum of 24bit/192kHz using AES/XLR or S/PDIF interfaces.
These physical inputs consist of one 110ohms XLR,
two 75ohms BNCs, and two optical Toslink connectors
(the latter only specified up to 96kHz). There is also
a USB input, but this is only capable of a maximum
sampling rate of 48kHz. Comprehensive digital and
analogue outputs include one BNC, one RCA S/PDIF
HIFICRITIC JULY | AUG | SEPT 2011
9/9/11 12:12:40
◆ REVIEW
Exposure MCX CD I/M 0dB 19/20kHz
Exposure MCX CD -70dB 1k 24bit
Exposure MCX CD 1kHz full level from AP Dig Gen
it just sounds exceptionally sweet, and has a notably
detailed treble. Replacing those aluminium cones with
Synergistic Research MIG supports improved the sound
still further, giving even better dynamic, focus and stage
depth. Thus supported, the MCX is definitely one of
the finest sounding commercial CD players around and
probably the best available under £5000.
I didn’t find it quite as convincing in balanced mode;
it sounded vaguer, less dynamic, always slightly softer
and lacking that ultimate level of definition that the
single-ended output provided.
Going back to single-ended operation and using it
as a DAC via the BNC S/PDIF input with other CD
players providing the source, it has slightly slower pace,
is not quite as elegant, and it has less definition. The
presentation has more obvious sibilants, and the focus
wasn’t as precise. I played about with a variety of digital
cables, but couldn’t find an overall performance balance
quite as good as the internal transport. However,
using high definition source material from both a
Naim UnitiServe and my own PC the performance
improved as expected, giving yet more realism to music
reproduction. When properly set up, using good source
material, the MCX is in fact one of the very best DACs
around at this price point.
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HFC_issue23 10.indd 34
MCX Pre-amplifier
Styled to match the CD player, the pre-amplifier has
basically the same casework and central oval window,
but now with a selector knob on the left and volume
on the right. These are rotary encoders which direct a
microprocessor that controls reed relays, eliminating
hardware switches and potentiometers; the volume level
and selected input are shown on the display. These are
supplemented by four buttons labelled power, mute,
display and menu, which include setting record status.
The double mono layout has separate boards for each
channel, and two discrete transistor amplifiers on each
board provide the balanced facility. Regulated power
supplies are shared between the two phases, and selected
components include Elna Silmic audio capacitors and
the liberal use of close tolerance metal film resistors.
The microprocessor control board has its own power
supply and the control lines are optically coupled. An
oversize multi tapped toroidal transformer is connected
to the audio power supply board which, using power
diode rectification and high power reservoir capacitors
with on-board protection fuses. All the power supplies
are wired between board using plugs and sockets for
easy servicing and flat ribbon cables are used for digital
control signals. Build quality was impressive for all these
MCX components.
This pre-amplifier majors on RCA/phono socket
inputs with three dedicated single-ended pairs. The AV
and tape in/out also use phono sockets, and balanced
XLR inputs are used for CD and AUX1/phono. Outputs
include one pair of phono sockets and two pairs of XLRs,
and there’s also an earth terminal, a fused, switched IEC
mains socket, ‘EXLINK’ in/out sockets, plus 3.5mm
jacks for remote and 12V in/out control lines.
Lab Report
The measured results show a very well sorted product
with low harmonic distortion, good signal-to-noise
ratio, very low intermodulation distortion and
respectable channel separation. Close tolerance resistors
in the relay switched volume control ensures perfect
channel balance at all volume settings, the input
sensitivity is well chosen, and its loading of 10kohms
is on the low side, but fine for solid state sources. The
frequency response is flat from 10Hz-10kHz and 0.2dB
down at 20 kHz, which is inconsequential (see graph).
Sound Quality
As with the CD player, the pre-amplifier was inserted
into my reference system using the MSB Platinum
Signature DAC as the source. Without any tweaks
(apart from a good platform), and using the singleended output, the sound resembled the CD player. It
obviously had the same characteristics and, like the CD
player prior to tuning, sounds very slightly confused,
lacking in the ultimate timing and precision.
However, with a finely judged balance, a sweet
HIFICRITIC JULY | AUG | SEPT 2011
9/9/11 12:13:46
◆ REVIEW
midrange and clear treble, there was doubt that it’s also
a potentially exceptional performer. And, just like the
CD player, it benefited from removing the influence
of the fitted soft rubber feet by mounting the case on
aluminium cones. The timing and resolution improves,
the slight confusion disappears, and it sounds dynamic
and quick. The bass has great attack, good weight, high
definition and articulation and it proves itself to be an
exceptional performer, at home on all types of music.
The midrange and treble focus are excellent, and with the
display switched off it sounds even better with slightly
sharper focus, quicker dynamics and improved grip.
In balanced mode it’s more of the same. It sounds
neutral, understated, and I could easily live with it in
my system. Used in either single-ended or balanced
operation it is undoubtedly the MCX is clearly a top
ranking pre-amplifier.
MCX Monoblock Power Amplifier
Apart from some with switch-mode power supplies,
big power amplifiers are necessarily rather heavy.
Exposure warns that this unit is a two man lift, each
mono-block amplifier weighing 40kg packed, so the
company is obviously serious. The specifications claim a
300W/8ohms rating that doubles to 600W/4ohms, so it
should certainly drive the vast majority of loudspeakers
without problem. The stacking system format
predetermines both width and depth, so only the height
can be changed compared to the CD player and pre-amp.
However, increasing the height from 104mm to 238mm
means the finished design still looks well proportioned,
unlike some other large power amps around. The
styling matches well, and the aesthetics remain perfectly
acceptable, both in and out of the stack.
The brushed anodised aluminium casework is strong
enough to support the 1.5kVA transformer. All the
heat-sinks are internal, so plenty of ventilation slots in
the top and bottom panels, and even some in the sides
help natural convection carry the heat away. The front
panel has that signature oval window with red Exposure
logo, normally discreetly lit when the unit is on, though
extinguishable.
The fairly busy back panel has in/out EXLINK
connectors and 12V trigger switching provision, a switch
Exposure MCX Pre SE frequency response
HIFICRITIC JULY | AUG | SEPT 2011
HFC_issue23 10.indd 35
to select between balanced XLR or single-ended phono
inputs, and two sets of good quality binding post/sockets
(to assist bi-wiring). The mains input has a 3-pin fused
IEC socket; this is unswitched, so it automatically enters
standby when plugged in. Sensibly, built in protection
covers over-temperature, over-current and DC-sensing
on the speaker output; ‘shut down’ is shown by a flashing
LED in the display window – the amp may be switched
on again after 30 seconds.
Lab Report
The mains was 243V during the test which may go
some way to explaining why the measured power
output was 20% above specification. It produced 360W
into 8ohms at 1kHz and 20Hz, falling just slightly to
343W at 20kHz. Output almost doubles to 690W into
4ohms, the pulsed output into 2ohms is 1190W, and
protection cuts in at 52amps pulsed output into a 1ohm
load, so it will drive just about anything. DC offset was
low and the sensitivity is sensible, while input loading
is 10kohm, so check on the matching for other preamps. The frequency response is nearly 2dB down at
20kHz, but the match with the MCX pre-amp improves
this a little. Harmonic distortion is well suppressed
at all frequencies, as was the 1 kHz intermodulation
distortion resulting from twin 19/20kHz tones tested at
1W. The 96dB (ref. 1W) and and 120dB (ref full level
output) signal-to-noise ratios are very good with CCIR
and A weighed filters, but I couldn’t get all the hum out
of the system on the test bench, so the unweighed figure
of 81dB could have been better.
Sound Quality
Really good power amplifiers are thin on the ground
and I’m often disappointed by those offered by well
regarded manufactures. After the magic created by the
PRE-AMPLIFIER TEST RESULTS
Make Exposure
Date 28/7/11
_______________________________________________________________________
Model
MCX
Ser. No. 054
_______________________________________________________________________
OUTPUT
20Hz
1kHz
20kHz
_______________________________________________________________________
Distortion, THD inc. noise BAL (4.0V) -100 dB
-101 dB
-86 dB
_______________________________________________________________________
Distortion, THD inc. noise SE (2.0)
-100 dB
-101 dB
-90 dB
_______________________________________________________________________
Channel
separation
101 dB
96 dB
72 dB
_______________________________________________________________________
Intermodulation Distortion 19.5kHz/20.5kHz 1:1 0.5V
-100 dB
_______________________________________________________________________
Intermodulation Distortion 19.5kHz/20.5kHz 1:1 2.0V
-109 dB
_______________________________________________________________________
Signal to noise ratio (ref. 1W output) CCIR Weighted Unweighted
A-weighted
_______________________________________________________________________
IHF.
0.5V Aux
84 dB
85 dB
88 dB
_______________________________________________________________________
Channel Balance over volume range
R ch is reference at 0db
0.012 dB
at –20db
0.008 dB
at –40dB
0.014 dB
at –60dB
0.036 dB
_______________________________________________________________________
Output Impedance
50 ohms
_______________________________________________________________________
Absolute Phase
correct
_______________________________________________________________________
Input
Data
Socket
Sensitivity
Loading
_______________________________________________________________________
Aux input balanced XLR
72 mV
10k ohms - nF
_______________________________________________________________________
10k ohms pF
Aux input single ended (0.5V) Phono 130 mV
_______________________________________________________________________
Maximum output Bal XLR
10 V
_______________________________________________________________________
Maximum
output SE Phono
17 V
_______________________________________________________________________
DC offset
Left 0 mV
Right 0 mV
_______________________________________________________________________
Size WxHxD
490 mm
104 mm
414 mm
_______________________________________________________________________
Price
£4,370
35
9/9/11 12:15:08
◆ REVIEW
Exposure MCX Power Amplifier 1W distortion
Exposure MCX Power Amp SE frequency response
Complete System
Contact:
Exposure Electronics
Tel: 01273 423877
www.exposurehifi.com
pre-amp and CD player, I was hopeful that the power
amplifiers would be worthy partners and not spoil the
fine qualities they had shown. In the event I needn’t
have worried because the power amplifier proved
to be well up to it, so much so that my notes, taken
over several listening sessions using these amps in my
reference system, were ridiculously similar to those for
the other components. Indeed, all the MCX products
were turning out to be amazingly accomplished. The
only real criticism here was of some 50Hz mechanical
hum from the transformers, but the overall performance
is a real achievement, and the MCX power amplifier
takes its place among the best amplifiers available.
POWER AMPLIFIER TEST RESULTS
Make Exposure
Date 28/7/11
_________________________________________________________________________
Model MCX Monoblock
Ser. No. 054
_________________________________________________________________________
POWER
OUTPUT
20Hz
1kHz
20kHz
_________________________________________________________________________
Continuous 8 ohm 2 channel
360 W
360 W
343 W
_________________________________________________________________________
Continuous 4 ohm 1 channel (4 ohm tap) 682 W
690 W
650 W
_________________________________________________________________________
Pulsed 2 ohm 1 channel (4 ohm tap)
1190 W
_________________________________________________________________________
Output
impedance (4 ohms tap)
0.05 ohms
0.05 ohms
0.12 ohms
_________________________________________________________________________
Peak Current
52 A
_________________________________________________________________________
Distortion, THD inc. noise (1W)
-81 dB
-81 dB
-80 dB
_________________________________________________________________________
Channel separation
- dB
- dB
- dB
_________________________________________________________________________
Intermodulation
Distortion 19kHz/20kHz 1:1 rated power, 8 ohms Protection dB*
_________________________________________________________________________
Intermodulation Distortion 19kHz/20kHz 1:1 1W, 8 ohms
-80 dB
CCIR Weighted Unweighted A-weighted
(22Hz-22kHz)
_________________________________________________________________________
Signal to noise ratio (ref. 1W output)
81 db
96 dB
95 dB
_________________________________________________________________________
Signal to noise ratio ref rated power
105 dB
120 dB
119 dB
_________________________________________________________________________
Absolute
Phase
correct
_________________________________________________________________________
Input Data
Socket
Sensitivity
Loading
_________________________________________________________________________
Aux input Phono
279 mV
10k ohms
- pF
_________________________________________________________________________
DC offset
Left 4 mV
_________________________________________________________________________
Size
WxHxD (each Monoblock)
490 mm
238 mm
414 mm
_________________________________________________________________________
Price
£9,400/pair
36
HFC_issue23 10.indd 36
The final test was to run all four components as a
system. They continued to impress and work together
exceptionally well, and although very good when stacked
as intended on their rubber feet, the performance
didn’t match up to the system constructed using high
quality supports. I discovered that I was able to use the
Synergistic Research MIG supports on the pre-amplifier
and CD player, while also shimming the upper power
amplifier so that it didn’t rock, and the sound improved
greatly. It simply took away a layer of unwanted
defocusing from the system sound, and although it didn’t
quite reach the same level as the best I’d had, the stack
really started entertain musically like so few can.
It’s been a surprising year, and some excellent products
have come into HIFICRITIC for test. All these Exposure
MCX products are so good that it may be very hard to
find individual components to beat them at their prices.
The only things I really found to complain about were
the anaemic rubber feet on the pre-amplifier and CD
player, which I really think should be changed. Also the
remote control is so bulky it’s difficult to handle.
Set up to give its best, the pre-amplifier with
Synergistic Research MIG feet scored 110 (against 85
with its standard rubber feet). The optimally supported
CD player reached 85 (90 with good high resolution
material) when best supported, but the rubber feet and
the balanced output reduced this to 55. The power
amplifiers are among the best I’ve heard under £10,000,
and scored 100.
The high sound quality potential demands that good
interconnects and loudspeaker cables are used, because
anything less will limit the system’s performance. The
supplied mains cables were also easily bettered, and
each product benefited from better mains connection.
As a system they all combine smoothly, efficiently
and aesthetically to provide exceptional results. All
thoroughly deserve high praise and automatically receive
very strong recommendation.
HIFICRITIC JULY | AUG | SEPT 2011
9/9/11 12:16:10
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